The Magic of Art

May 13, 2024

Join us as we delve into the wonders of some of the world’s most captivating museums during our collective exploration, Museum Visits Part 1.                        

Prepare for an unforgettable school trip to the UK in 2024, full of wonder and excitement!

We will visit the National Gallery in London. One of the world’s oldest and most important, it was opened in 1824 and has more than 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900.

Visiting an art gallery creates lifelong memories and instills positive values in children. It inspires, connects, moves, and sparks imagination. If the child is already interested in the arts, the visit can deepen their appreciation and improve their understanding of the arts, which might take them further to choose a career related to the art field. For those who have not yet discovered passions, visiting a world-class museum opens new doors to a new world. Art can be a fascinating and enriching experience, even if one does not intend to pursue it as a career. Appreciating art can add value to one's skills and provide a unique perspective on the world. Art is not restricted to painting, sculpture, or drawing; it exists everywhere. Enhancing the quality of our lives comes naturally when we develop an eye for aesthetics. Wouldn't it be fantastic if you were a doctor who is also good at home decor, an athlete who draws as a hobby, or a programmer who is also brilliant at food styling? We encourage our students to cultivate skills and apply those skills to real use in their lives. 

Art provides an excellent way for students to learn about diversity in taste, opinion, and perspective. Beauty is subjective, and art teaches us to respect this fact. By studying great works of art, students can learn that effort and dedication are just as important as talent when attempting to achieve something on a grand scale. Art can also serve as historical evidence and offer a different perspective from what we read in books, as past artists recorded events uniquely. Furthermore, the definition of art and artists can change over time, giving students an opportunity to think critically and question things for which there is no single answer.

In addition, enjoying art for its own sake can help us appreciate life more and find joy in it. Learning to appreciate art is a skill that can be taught in the school years and carried into adulthood.

We cannot visit the National Gallery without viewing this famous painting with our own eyes. I am talking about ‘ The Sunflowers’, perhaps one of the world’s most famous Still-Life paintings. This painting is so famous that almost everyone, including children, recognises it and knows who painted it. Although copies of this painting can be found in many places, viewing the original artwork, especially the artwork of expressionism, provides a unique insight and attention to detail that is truly mesmerising and hard to forget. The vivid brushstrokes of the sunflowers in the vase evoke excitement and tell a story beyond their yellow petals. 

We cannot look at this painting without knowing more about Van Gogh. After all, art is an expression of one’s feelings, and Van Gogh was one of the first painters to use his paintings to express his feelings. The range of painting techniques, from tiny dots to thick sculptural strokes, is very impressive.  He is considered a father of expressionism, where colour is used to express his feelings, thoughts, mood, and symbolism rather than the object’s natural colour. Our students will see other great paintings in the gallery and see the difference between what we mean by ‘art is an imitation of nature’ and when ‘art is expression’.

  •  Van Gogh is a deeply religious Dutch man who failed at almost everything. He started to paint seriously at 30 and was self-taught. He died at 37, and his most famous paintings were painted during the last three years of his life. He sold only one painting in his lifetime.
  • The sunflowers was painted in 1888. After he painted ‘The Sunflowers’, he suffered a nervous breakdown. In 1889, he was in and out of a mental hospital, and died in 1890. His nervous breakdown symptoms are now recognised as characteristics of bipolar disorder.
  •  He painted the sunflowers as a ‘gratitude’ for a friend who came to stay with him in Arles, Southern France. That friend was Paul Gauguin (more on this in another article).
  • For Van Gogh, yellow was a colour of happiness and vitality. In Dutch literature, the sunflower was a symbol of devotion and loyalty. He used only three shades of yellow.
  • For Van Gogh, this painting represents life cycles, from full bloom to withering. In their various stages of decay, these flowers remind us of the cycles of life and death. 

Van Gogh’s Sunflowers provides many things to discuss and learn. When discussing the life cycle concept, biology is not the only subject; we can integrate it into religious studies and philosophy. Learning to read the message hidden in the picture is always fun. Children learn to interpret the message and get their curiosity working. Our young teenagers always come up with thought-provoking questions. And yes, philosophy can be discussed with secondary students! It can be a fun topic to explore! We can discuss empathy, the importance of mental health issues, how we treat each other, and medical symptoms. Van Gogh had a remarkable and supportive brother from whom we could learn more about sibling love. We can even talk about the Industrial Revolution's change in society in the 19th century and when artists started to enjoy painting colour in tubes, where they were first introduced. 

You bring art to life and give it new depth and meaning. You evoke the joy of learning and teach children to connect the dots. This is the beauty of art and the purpose of education.

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